Innovations in the Development of Small Molecule Pharmaceuticals

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community



Jean Tom

Executive Director of Development Engineering 
Chemistry Process Development at Bristol Myers Squibb


The diverse and complex molecules that are now being discovered and developed in today’s pharmaceutical industry require innovation across multiple dimensions. Innovations in synthetic chemistry and chemical engineering are critical to solving the technical challenges to enable and to scale up new molecular transformations. The goal of process scientists in a chemical process development organization is to design safe, sustainable, robust, and cost-effective routes to deliver high quality drug substances. A systematic approach to this work is staging the work as route invention, process invention and process characterization. Process chemical engineers are key drivers and implementers of innovation approaches to accomplish such goals. How we work, how we develop people, and how we attract talent to the chemical sciences will be paramount to the continued success of modern pharmaceutical industry. This talk will tie together these elements to provide a view on the current state of innovation in the development of complex small molecule pharmaceuticals.

"Innovation in the development of complex small molecule pharmaceuticals"


Jean Tom is the Executive Director of Development Engineering Chemistry Process Development at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS)  where she led a group of chemical engineers focused on development of chemical processes to synthesize small-molecule drug candidates for new therapeutics. Prior to joining BMS in 2006, Jean spent 19 years at Merck Research Laboratories. She has been a strong advocate for increasing the role and impact of chemical engineering in the pharmaceutical industry and bringing new approaches to accelerate the generation of process knowledge needed at the different stages of development.

She received B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and M.S. degree in Chemical Engineering Practice from MIT. After several years in industry, Jean returned to academia and received a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Princeton University. Jean is active in the AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) as a Board of Director member, Fellow, and recipient of the AIChE Industrial Leadership Award (2018), and in the NAE (National Academy of Engineering) to which she was elected to in 2019. She contributes to the chemical engineering community through her service as an ABET program evaluator, external advisory committee member for several departments, and through STEM outreach programs.

Jean will retire from BMS at the end of 2023 and join the faculty at the University of Virginia as the Brenton Halsey Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chemical Engineering in January 2024, where she will teach a course on Business and Technical Leadership in Engineering to senior and graduate engineering students.